Graphics in games tend to have one direction: better and better. But that's not always the case. Crysis came out in 2007, and it was an absolute beast of a game. Visually, it tore everything else apart and also managed to kill just about any computer that came close to it. Hence the meme "But can it run Crysis?" The game made its fair share of money, but probably also scared off just as many potential buyers due to its demanding nature. Crysis Warhead refined the original title by improving the visuals and making them more accessible to folks who didn't feel like spending a small fortune, but it was not released on any of the consoles. Crysis 2 followed a different path. The most recent sequel looks great in its own right, but more than a few graphical elements seem to have disappeared. We've gone through the single player campaigns on the three titles to point out a few of the changes we found.
Additionally, rumors of a DirectX 11 patch made their way through the internet over the past few weeks, and on April 8th an official Crytek voice announced that there would indeed be a patch for the game. No release date or details beyond that were given. We'll be sure to revisit the comparison once it's out.
Crytek made an enormous deal about the lighting systems in Crysis when it was previewed years ago. Looking down the barrel of your gun or walking under foliage, the sunlight would affect everything. Like in real life, too much light tends to make things more translucent and makes details disappear into the brightness. Both of these things happen in Crysis and Crysis Warhead. From what we can tell, Crysis 2 simplified the lighting system quite a bit. You still get the sunstreams, but they don't seem to affect objects as much.
The first set of shots below show how sunlight affects the overall look of the game. In Crysis you'd get tremendously contrasted regions, and Warhead's sun went as far as to completely blind out part of the hillside and everything on it. In Crysis 2 we'd get that sort of effect in some pre-scripted sequences, but it didn't seem to happen during gameplay.
Crysis 2 also took a step backward where your ability to destroy in-game objects is concerned. We found a few instances where you could break stuff, like benches, cars, and the occasional setup object meant to crush enemies. Both Crysis and Crysis Warhead let you tear apart most things, within reason. Any loosely setup structure could literally be punched to pieces. Boxes and trees trembled before your might. The slow-moving vehicles were practically begging to be blown to bits.
Crysis 2 takes place in a city, which makes trees and plants less of a concern. The jungle island settings of Crysis and Crysis Warhead demanded that they be meticulously rendered. Crysis 2 has similar foliage, but it doesn't behave the same way. Palm fronds would bend out of your way in the original title. In Crysis 2, you experience that on a minor level. A few shrubs move when you brush against them, but most let you pass through as if they were not there.
Both Crysis and Crysis Warhead offered enormous draw distances--all of it populated with real geometry and actual objects. Those draw distances also took their toll on performance. By contrast, levels in Crysis 2 have a much more limited scope. Cities with tall buildings make for excellent graphical cutoffs, and distant elements seem to be backdrops. The change helps Crysis 2 maintain healthy frame rates.
Water Reflections and Underwater Refraction
All the games support water reflections and refraction. The clear water and sunny skies in Crysis and Crysis Warhead show off considerably more reflections, but they're still apparent on the dark waters of Crysis 2. Overall, water quality seems to be much higher on the previous two games. Of course both games also take place on an island - surrounded by water - it'd be a bad element to ignore. The cityscapes of Crysis 2 remove the need for a heavy emphasis on incredibly detailed water.
Hopping into the water for a look up toward land gives us a wavy look across all the games. Crysis Warhead also drops in minor rainbow effects.
A quick look at the settings page shows that Crysis 2 really slimmed down the number of options users can tweak. Now we’re left with High, Very High, and Extreme. Low, Medium, and High would have sufficed, but apparently gamers tend to be an overly sensitive bunch.
A third party group has released a mod that enables access to more settings for Crysis 2. It can be found here. It is a mod, so be aware that it can have adverse effects.
It's clear some features didn't quite make it into Crysis 2. However, playable frame rates are generally preferable to eye candy moving at a snail's pace. Crysis 2 came out quite the looker, even with the emphasis on performance over pizazz. We can't wait to see how Crytek modifies Crysis 2 with its upcoming DirectX 11 patch.